You won’t find this chopper bike at any shop. Photo by Seth Anderson. 

A friend of mine works in a local bike shop (read: not a chain store, not a department store) so I get to hear stories about the kinds of bikes people bring in for repair, and when he sells someone a brand new, or new used bike. It’s cool to hear about people getting on bikes again, or replacing their own in decent condition with a new one that runs smoother and perhaps a little faster.

I sent my friend this text message today:

And on Day Seven, God created the local bike shop and said, “Get thine brothers and sisters on bicycles”.

I later added that it wasn’t God who created “Mart bikes” (the bikes sold at Target, Walmart, and other department stores with names like Magna and Roadmaster). Satan created these hunks of junk. Their main attraction is their $89 price with 1 penny shipping. But to make a bike that cheap, every corner has been cut. It will rust faster, break down faster, become disabled faster. Unfortunately, this is not intuitive or well-known to potential buyers of these machines.

And as my bike shop friend tells me, they usually cannot be fixed. They use proprietary parts, or will cost so much to fix, the person could get a used bike from the shop!

Other shortcomings of “Mart bikes”: no one is at the store to help find one the right size, or fit the brake levers, seat post height, or saddle angle to your body. Bikes are misassembled. My friend told me that a customer came in with a brand new “Mart bike” and asked the shop to make sure it was assembled correctly.

If you’re in Logan Square, I know some great bike shops: The Bike Lane (2130 N Milwaukee) and Boulevard Bikes (2535 N Kedzie).

N.B. I’d prefer that department stores don’t sell bicycles. I’ve thought of a few ways to change situation and ensure people ride quality bicycles that they enjoy. Riding a bicycle that later breaks down discourages some riders from correcting the issue, thus stopping them from riding a bike again. One of those ways is to hire a local bike shop to staff the bike department in the store on weekends (and sales would only occur on weekends). The staff would find the right bike for the buyer, and fit the bike to the buyer. Another idea is to ban certain kinds of stores from selling bicycles unless they meet certain requirements, like bikes were assembled by a certified bike mechanic.